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In the Great God's Hair, by F. W. Bain, [1905], at

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In the Great God's Hair.



Adoration to the Four Eightfold Divinities: the Eight Forms of the Lord of Time: the Eight Cardinal Points of Space: the Eight Sections of the Revelation of Panini: and the Eight Pairs of Petals of the Lotus of the World a.

FAR away, in the quarter of the north, there stands a mighty mountain: of supereminence so transcendent, that even the Mother of the World b was willing to call him father: of hue so pure, that even the snowy swans haunting the lake of Mánasa blush in his presence as if ashamed of their own inferiority: of size so gigantic, that the rising and the setting sun throws his shadow on the sky, and

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the seven Rishis c in their daily revolution turn their eyes upwards to his peak, glowing like a tongue of flame at sunset or at dawn. And there on his northern face is the home of the Lord of Creatures animate or inanimate. There one evening, when the light of day was flying before the shadows that rose up pursuing it out of the abysses of the valleys along the mountain sides, the Daughter of the Mountain was playing at dice with her lord d. And she won from him, first his elephant skin, and next his rosary of skulls. And finally she said: Now, then, I will play thee for that which thou dost carry on thy head. And Maheshwara perceived her intention. But he answered: Very well. So the Goddess threw the dice, and won. And she exclaimed in delight: Ha! I have won. Pay me the stake. Then Maheshwara gave her his moon. Thereupon the goddess exclaimed in a rage: Thou art a deceiver. Thou dost owe me Gangá, and yet offer me only thy moon e. What do I care for

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thy moon? Then said the god: Why, O fair one, art thou angry? Is it not this moon which I carry on my head? But Umá turned away from him in a pet.

Then the crafty god, who had only teased her to enjoy the beauty of her anger, preparing to conciliate her, said: Come, the game is over. So now, give me my moon, which to thee is worse than useless, since thy own face would rob it of its lustre, being itself a moon always at full. Moreover, I cannot do without it. Then said the goddess: Why canst thou not do without it? And Maheshwara said: Know, that were it withdrawn from the forehead of me who am the world f, this universe would cease to exist. Then said Umá: How can that be? And the god said: Of all created things, the new moon is the fairest. And therefore it is that I wear it in my hair, as a symbol of that power which is the pivot of all motion animate and inanimate. For Beauty is the ruler of the world, and without it, all would remain plunged in darkness, and motionless. And there is a story connected with this. Then the goddess, filled with curiosity, exclaimed: Tell me the story, and I will give thee thy moon,

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and forgive thy deceit. And Maheshwara said: Very well. For this was just what he wished her to do.

Then Umá gave him his moon, and he set it in his yellow hair. And then he sat down, with his back against a precipice, and took her on his lap. And she laid her head on his breast, and prepared to listen to his tale.

But just as the god was about to begin, he looked down, and saw, far away on the side of the hill below him, a man, toiling up painfully over the cold white snow. And he looked in the middle of that vast wilderness like an ant, lost among the blocks of salt in the desert. Then said the god to Umá: Look! there is a man. What can he be doing here, where no mortal ever comes? It were better to wait and see. Then the goddess exclaimed: Thou art about to deceive me again. This is a trick, to cheat me of my story. And Maheshwara said: Nay, thou shalt certainly hear it without delay. But first let us discover, what is the object of this poor mortal. And he called out to the man: Ho there! who art thou? and why art thou climbing up alone through the ice and snow?

Then hearing the voice, which echoed like

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thunder among the hills, that man fell face downwards upon the snow. And he said: O Maheshwara, giver of boons, for surely it is thou that I hear and no other, I am come to thee as a suppliant, and all my hope is in thee. Know, that I am a Kathaka g, belonging to the household of the King of Pátaliputra, a city of the plains. And every night before he went to rest, I told him a story, to beguile him and bring sleep to his eyes. So for fourteen years I told him stories, every night one. And then at last, one night, when the time came for him to go to bed, I said to him: O King, my stock is finished, and my fancy exhausted, and now I cannot tell thee any more. Then he looked upon me with red, angry eyes. And he said: O dog, how is this? Shall I not sleep, by reason of the poverty of thy faculty? So I fell on my face before him, and said: Let the King show mercy. But I am empty, and the fountain of my invention has run dry. Then he said: Know, that thou art no longer my Kathaka, but another has thy place. And know, moreover, that if in three months from to-day, for I will be merciful, and allow thee time, thou dost not tell me a story more curious than anything I have ever

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heard, I will sever thy empty head from thy body, first tearing out thy useless tongue, and uproot thy family and all thy relations from the land, like a furious wind among the trees at the opening of the rainy season. And immediately he sent and seized them, and holds them now as hostages for my return. And so, seeing no other resource, I have come to thy feet, travelling night and day without either food or rest. For thou knowest all, past, present and to come, and now I am in thy hands.

Then said Maheshwara to his wife: Thou seest, we did well to wait: and now, this unlucky Kathaka has arrived in the very nick of time. So let him listen to our tale. But whether for his good or ill, time alone can show. Then he took the Kathaka, and put him up into his hair. And at the touch of his hand, that Kathaka was delivered in a moment from all his fatigue and exhaustion, and he sat in the shadow of that matted hair, illuminated like a forest of great trees by the diadem of the deity, to overhear the tale.

And then the god began. And as he spoke, the Gándharwas, and the Kinnaras, and the Siddhas and Widyádharas came noiselessly and collected in the air, and listened with eager ears.


3:a The Lord of Time is Shiwa. Panini's grammar is believed to have been revealed to him by the deity. The Lotus of the world is the goddess of beauty.

3:b Párwatí is the Daughter of Himalaya.

4:c The Great Bear.

4:d As, if we may believe Bhartrihari, they often do, for the lives of men.

4:e Párwatí is represented in Hindoo literature as being very jealous of Gangá (the river Ganges) because Shiwa caught her, or it, upon his head.

5:f Bhawa means both Shiwa and the world.

7:g A story teller.

Next: I. A Denier of Deity